We all make New Year’s resolutions, but we don’t usually keep them. This is because we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves like losing 20 pounds in two months or never eating sugar again. How about making some enjoyable New Year’s resolutions? Let’s make some wine resolutions!

Try these tips to grow your wine knowledge, while you explore new varietals and regions.

Focus your efforts in 2017 on finding really good wines, and getting away from buying the ones that always seem to be on sale in the centre aisle of the store. This means you should explore by country. To do that, just ask for help. Both NSLC and the private stores have knowledgeable staff that will give you great suggestions at most price points.

Drink healthier. We all know that wine is good for us, right? (In moderation, of course). The key to drinking as healthily as possible is avoiding high-alcohol and high-sugar wines. Look at the alcohol level on the bottle. Low-alcohol and dry wines will naturally have less sugar. Dry Riesling, and Pinot Noir are two examples. These wines will also have less calories, so you have the added value of keeping that other New Year’s resolution.

Re-visit the Old World. There are lots of new offerings in Spain, which has some great values on the shelf right now. Italy has some tasty and affordable wines like Barbera, and Nero D’Avola just waiting for you to discover them. You can even find cheap and cheerful wines from Portugal in most stores now. You can have any of these for under $20.

When looking for American wines, escape California. There are some great wines from Washington State and Oregon on the shelves these days. These wines taste different than the ubiquitous California blends, but are equally tasty.

Try organic and biodynamic wines. The future of wines is organic, so it’s time to embrace wines that combine great quality with a smaller environmental footprint. Read the label closely as many wineries have “organic” in small print.

Try new grapes. Gewurtztraminer from Germany, Mouvedre from France, Garnacha from Spain. All of these wines are flavourful, great with food, and will make you look like you’re a wine expert.

Save money. Chardonnay from Chile, Shiraz from South Africa, and Tempranillo from Spain, all offer great value. If you have a $15 budget start with wines form these countries, and expand your search from there. Let us know when you find some great values.

Drink local. The selection and quality has never been better. You can sample at your local farmer’s market and the wineries themselves.

Try a decent sparkling wine. A nice glass of bubbles is a perfect start to an evening. You’ll find several great Nova Scotian offerings, but if you want to feel like you’re in a warmer climate on a cold winter day try Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or the French wine I review below.

Get out of your comfort zone. If you usually drink Sauvignon Blanc, try Abarino from Spain or Gruner Vetliner from Austria. If you like Chardonnay, try Viognier from Australia, or Torrontes from Argentina. If you drink Cabernet Sauvignon, try Primitivo from Italy or Rioja from Spain. If you like Malbec, try Garnacha from Spain. And if you like Pinot Noir, try Barbera from Italy, or Beaujolais from France. Experiment!

Take a wine course. Ask anyone who has taken a course and they will tell you that trying new wines and learning about the history and heritage of a wine region is a blast.

Have fun! Splurge on a bottle of Champagne, but have it with french fries or potato chips. Grab some rich Chardonnay and pair it with buttered popcorn while watching a good movie.

The under-$25 wine review

Bouvet Saumur Brut
France, NSLC, $21.99

A New Year’s celebration isn’t the only time for good sparkling wine, as this wine proves. A traditional sparkling wine at this price is always a bargain. If it’s French and has this much character, it’s a steal. Fresh bread on the nose with a zest of lemon. Bubbles persist on the palate, with notes of baked pears and a freshness that extends through the finish. An excellent bargain and a fine introduction to great French sparkling wine. Pair with baked scallops. 92/100

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon
California, NSLC, $19.99

I’m always on the lookout for good California Cabernet for under $25. This one has no regional designation (meaning the grapes can come from anywhere in California). Nice richness of plums and blackberries that hits the palate right away. A spicy dark finish and notes of vanilla round out the flavours. There is a sweetness here that is not unpleasant, but the lack of tannins to balance this out is the issue. A good primer for those who want to try Cabernet Sauvignon but are afraid they will be too dry. A good party wine to have with the beef or lamb appetizers. 87/100